Dutch farmers’ association LTO is warning holidaymakers not to bring home olive tree cuttings if they spend time in Italy and France this summer because of the risk of importing a bacteria which is killing the trees.
The xylella fastidiosa bacteria has destroyed 2,800 square kilometres of olive groves in Italy since it began spreading in 2013, the organisation says. The disease, known as leaf scorch, has also been spotted in Corsica and Nice.
Although the bacteria attacks olive trees it will also affect some 200 other sorts of plants, making it a risk to the Netherlands as well, LTO spokesman Jan Veltmans told broadcaster Nos. Oleander and plum fruit plants are also susceptible.
The EU regards the bacteria as one of the ‘most dangerous‘ in the world and says its impact on agriculture is huge.
If the bacteria is detected, under EU rules all plants within 100 metres of the infected tree have to be destroyed. In addition, the area is subject to a 10-kilometre buffer zone in which no plants can be moved for a five-year period.
‘Imagine that something happens in Aalsmeer,’ Veltmans said. ‘Then the entire plant auction system would be closed down for five years.’
The LTO, economic affairs ministry and product safety authority VWA have produced a brochure warning tourists of the risks.
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